The Little Things

Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated in my quest to “green” my life, and I realized today it’s because the desire to green me has turned into a desire to green the whole world. I want so badly to convince others to believe in what I doing, to understand that we’re destroying our bodies and the environment without even knowing it.  In my attempts to thoroughly research everything I want to blog about, I get distracted by trying to find a perfect solution. I need to remind myself that the little things do make a difference even though they can never be perfect and that eventually I will figure out what to do with all of this knowledge.

In the spirit of making the little things count, here are some of the ways Taylor and I have greened our lives recently:

  • This past weekend, I roasted a whole chicken. A two and half lb. free range organic chicken cost about the same as buying just one lb. of chicken breasts, and we got a fancy dinner out of it, sandwiches the next day, and about 2 quarts of stock to make soup. Buying a whole bird is more sustainable because processing and packaging are minimized. Plus, it was local!

 chicken Continue reading

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On Deodorant: Aluminum, the Precautionary Principle, and a DIY

Upon reading all over the internet that aluminum in deodorant may be linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, Taylor and I decided to play it safe by avoiding aluminum in antiperspirant while also researching these claims.

This sort of better safe than sorry approach, termed the “precautionary principle,” is an important part of living a healthy and toxin free life.  The chemistry industry in general does not subscribe to this set of ethics which would require proof that a chemical is safe before it is released on a large scale to consumers. Instead, companies want to get their products on the market as soon as possible and perform safety and toxicology tests later.  This negligence is how endocrine disrupting molecules such as BPA end up plastics we encounter every day.

An example of the precautionary principle in use is the movement to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Little is known about GMOs, so many consumers would like the freedom to choose whether to consume them or not.   

Back to deodorant.  Aluminum is found in deodorants in the form of a salt, usually aluminum chlorohydrate, which has been found to interfere with estrogen receptors in human breast cancer cells.  Given that a large proportion of cancers form in the outer sections of the breast closest to the armpits, deodorant has been placed under suspicion by some scientists.  However, there is no conclusive evidence that aluminum causes breast cancer, only a correlation between underarm hygiene and younger diagnosis of breast cancer.  The National Cancer Institute can tell you more here and provides links to many of the original studies. Continue reading

Quote of the Day: Endocrine Disruptors

Quote

“We seem to be accepting as a society that it’s acceptable to load up our next generation with chemicals in an unregulated manner and hope they’re not bad. We need to change that entire culture.”

— Thomas Zoeller, UMass Amherst Professor and co-author of a joint report by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program on endocrine disrupting chemicals.

The report, State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, concludes that endocrine disruptors, which interfere with human and animal development and reproduction, present a “global threat.”

Finally, we are moving in the right direction.

One of my personal goals for the near future is to learn exactly how the endocrine system works and how these chemicals disrupt it.

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Here is the article the quote came from and here you can access the entire report and a summary of it from the World Health Organization.

Quote of the Day: Endocrine Disruptors

“We seem to be accepting as a society that it’s acceptable to load up our next generation with chemicals in an unregulated manner and hope they’re not bad. We need to change that entire culture.”

— Thomas Zoeller, UMass Amherst Professor and co-author of a joint report by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program on endocrine disrupting chemicals.

The report, State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, concludes that endocrine disruptors, which interfere with human and animal development and reproduction, present a “global threat.”

Finally, we are moving in the right direction.

One of my personal goals for the near future is to learn exactly how the endocrine system works and how these chemicals disrupt it.

___

Here is the article the quote came from and here you can access the entire report and a summary of it from the World Health Organization.

Thinking Outside the Bottle: Tapped the Movie

A few days ago Taylor and I decided to watch the movie Tapped after seeing it posted by fellow green bloggers here.

Only about an hour long (and on netflix!), it covered a massive amount of information on basically everything wrong with plastic, from the bottled water industry to the harmful chemicals in every plastic container you eat or drink out of to the way the chemical industry is destroying everything and everybody to make a few bucks. Continue reading

Certified Sustainable Seafood is a Little Fishy

After reading my piece this morning on sustainable seafood, my mother happened to hear on the radio part of an NPR investigative series on just that topic.  She sent me the link to the piece, entitled “Under the Label: Sustainable Seafood” and after listening to part one of three I realized that my own research had not been thorough enough.

What NPR questioned that I hadn’t was the Marine Stewardship Council‘s (MSC) sustainability certification. When I first saw it, I thought oh awesome, a third party certification that will make it much easier for me to grocery shop. What I should have been thinking about was who the MSC is, their standards, and their track record.  As it turns out, a quick trip to wikipedia shows that I missed an awful lot. Continue reading

On Sustainable Seafood

I recently read a sidebar in the cookbook Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia on sustainable seafood, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Because I grew up on the water right next to one of the biggest seafood ports in the world, the idea of not only nonlocal but not-caught-yourself seafood is new to me. I have always loved eating the fish that I caught while out for a sail or the quahogs my sisters and I dug up with our feet in the sand.  My family even had lobster traps for a few years.  The rest of the seafood we ate came from local markets selling local fish.  We did eat salmon often though and I’m sure that was farmed somewhere in the Atlantic.

Living in Pittsburgh, I buy seafood from either the grocery store or one of the big fish markets downtown. There is so much variety available to me, yet I don’t know what to buy. I can’t just pick the type of fish labeled “organic” like I can with tomatoes because there is no such thing as certified organic seafood.  There’s only sustainable seafood, and it requires a little research to identify.

The two biggest problems in the modern fishing industry are overfishing and methods of farming and harvesting that cause harm to the oceans.  Other concerns for consumers include mercury and other heavy metal contamination.  This occurs in a process called bioaccumulation to fish high up on the food chain (e.g. tuna and swordfish) from consuming many other organisms that harbor low levels of toxins, not just from absorbing the metals directly from the water.

There are a few great websites out there for reading about sustainable seafood and learning how to shop for it. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies sustainable seafood so you can look for their seal when shopping for fish.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium also publishes a pocket guide (and smartphone app!) with various types of fish divided into the categories of basically “best” “good” and “avoid.” I will definitely be using this next time I go to the fish market.

Here is what I learned and how my seafood shopping is going to change (and why yours should too):

  • No more farmed salmon.  Fish farms are not well regulated and often environmentally damaging, so Alaska wild caught salmon is a better choice.
  • Frozen shrimp are a good buy.  They are frozen at sea where they are caught so they cost less to ship and taste fresh.
  • Dungeness crab is very sustainably farmed (according to Lucid Food).  Never tried this but I plan to if I can find any.
  • Canned tuna should be avoided (mother) because cans are lined in BPA.  I don’t even like canned tuna, but it’s also at high risk for mercury contamination. Bluefish, which is one of my favorite fish to catch and cook myself, also has high levels of mercury. Sad face. 

Obviously the best way to figure out where your fish came from and how it was caught is just to ask.  I find the idea of doing this awkward and irrationally terrifying, but I am going to give it a shot.